How to list all files contained in a Debian package

Last updated on June 17, 2013 by Dan Nanni

Suppose you are trying to install a specific deb package, but want to know what files are contained in the package before actual installation. Or imagine that you are not sure what package owns a specific program binary or library you need.

In these cases, it will be useful if you can check the content of a specific deb package before installation. This article tells you how to do it.

In Ubuntu or Debian, there are two ways to show all files contained in a particular deb package without installing it.

Method One: apt-file

The first method is to use apt-file command-line tool.

To install and use apt-file on Ubuntu or Debian, do the following.

$ sudo apt-get install apt-file
$ sudo apt-file update

Note that you need to run "apt-file update" at first, in order to synchronize all available package contents from their sources.

Then to show files belonging to a specific deb package (e.g., tofrodos), simply run:

$ sudo apt-file show tofrodos
tofrodos: /usr/bin/fromdos
tofrodos: /usr/bin/todos
tofrodos: /usr/share/doc/tofrodos/NEWS.Debian.gz
tofrodos: /usr/share/doc/tofrodos/changelog.Debian.gz
tofrodos: /usr/share/doc/tofrodos/copyright
tofrodos: /usr/share/doc/tofrodos/readme.txt.gz
tofrodos: /usr/share/doc/tofrodos/tofrodos.html
tofrodos: /usr/share/man/man1/fromdos.1.gz
tofrodos: /usr/share/man/man1/todos.1.gz
The output will show the names of all contained files, along with their respective target installation directories.

Method Two: apt-get

The second method to show files in a Debian package is to use apt-get command, but with --download-only option.

$ apt-get --download-only install tofrodos

Once you run the above command, a deb package called tofrodos will get downloaded to /var/cache/apt/archives, but will not be installed.

Then you can use dpkg command to list contents of the locally downloaded deb package.

$ dpkg -c /var/cache/apt/archives/tofrodos_1.7.9.debian.1-1build1_amd64.deb
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/man/
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/man/man1/
-rw-r--r-- root/root      1677 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/man/man1/fromdos.1.gz
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/doc/
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/doc/tofrodos/
-rw-r--r-- root/root       391 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/doc/tofrodos/NEWS.Debian.gz
-rw-r--r-- root/root      1406 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/doc/tofrodos/copyright
-rw-r--r-- root/root      5832 2011-02-27 04:25 ./usr/share/doc/tofrodos/tofrodos.html
-rw-r--r-- root/root      3746 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/doc/tofrodos/changelog.Debian.gz
-rw-r--r-- root/root      5410 2011-02-27 04:25 ./usr/share/doc/tofrodos/readme.txt.gz
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/bin/
-rwxr-xr-x root/root     12792 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/bin/fromdos
lrwxrwxrwx root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/share/man/man1/todos.1.gz -> fromdos.1.gz
lrwxrwxrwx root/root         0 2011-10-18 10:47 ./usr/bin/todos -> fromdos

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